What does it mean to have abundant life? For at least a decade, I understood the abundant life to be “eternal” life, and that eternal life starts when life on earth ends. Then, for a few years an unsettled yearning stirred in me, saying, “There’s more.” I struggled to find it, whatever it was. I looked into the faces of other believers and recognized that same longing. I listened to Christian music and heard that longing in lyrics like, “we need You,” and I wondered, “Why do we still need You when we already have You? Our cups should be ‘filled,’ in fact, ‘running over,’ if the promises in Your word are true.” So why did I see hunger in churches everywhere and in my own heart? This, along with a few other prompts, is what caused me to enter into a long season of prayer. I knew God had the answer, and I was determined that He give it to me.
If I possessed the abundant life, then perhaps I needed an instruction manual for it. The scriptures must be written in Chinese, or else I would have already figured this thing out. So I prayed to the One who can make sense of scripture. During this long season of prayer, I learned God’s sense of humor. Have you ever played the game of hot and cold? The person designated “it” hides an item, while everyone is not looking. Then, when the person who is “it” says it is time to look, the others begin searching. “It” tells the others if they are cold or warm or hot, depending on how close they are to the hiding place. In this case, God was it and I was looking. Imagine my surprise when I heard the word “warm” in places I never expected to find it, like church history, where people are being tortured and murdered by church leaders, and imagine my surprise when I heard the word “warmer” when I considered whether the church had outwardly stopped murdering and torturing but inwardly was still just as cruel as it was back then. “Seriously, God?” I wondered. Were we really that ugly inside – the way Jesus described the inside of the Pharisees sparkling white cups, full of rotting dead stuff? And imagine how I came unglued when I started seeing what orthodoxy considers “heresy” in the scriptures, glorious truths that were discarded with contempt – and God said, “hot.”
The abundant life is not safe, by religious standards. How exciting! I began to share some of my “safe” observations with others, and keeping my “unsafe” observations to myself. (We are rotting. The church is beautiful on the outside and ugly on the inside. We have a serious problem. The very foundation of “Christianity” is cracked. We are putting band-aids on a gushing wound. We are bleeding out. We are dying.) But no one wanted to hear it. I got a push back: Look at how we help this homeless person, look at how incredible our worship is, look at how engaged we are in studying spiritual things, look at how we memorize scripture, look at how we share our burdens, etc. – as if the abundant life could be produced by a system of death. And I knew that if my “safe” revelation produced a push back, then my “unsafe” revelation would likely result in a full-blown shove – and maybe even a kick in the teeth. I never imagined it would entail being crucified with Christ. (And why didn’t I? He specifically told me that is what it would be like.)
The abundant life is right here, right now. Not that I don’t believe God has even more amazing things in store for us, of course He does. He starts simple and builds. It is a dynamic process that we can enter into any time. Believers are already part of a system that acts as a substitute for the abundant life, so they are tricked into thinking they already have everything they need. They deny the hunger, because to hunger is to admit that what they have is not enough. To admit what they have is not enough is to admit that something is wrong with the system. If something is wrong with the system, then the unbelievers were right in rejecting all those church invitations. The unbelievers were right in saying that Christianity is fake, hypocritical, and full of holes. What a blow to pride!
The abundant life is right here, right now. The reason most believers are afraid of it, is that they don’t embrace the past, a trail of heartache, like the wake behind a ship. All of the horrors and bloodshed throughout history that were committed in the name of Christ were produced by the system that today presents itself as rehabilitated or reformed. Believers need to own the injustice, admit to it, repent of it in behalf of those who did it. But it was only reformed in theory and in appearance. It was never reformed in practice. Christian leaders are still torturing and murdering heretics, still going on the witch-hunt, still enforcing Mosaic law/works, and still crucifying the body of Christ, only they are doing it on an emotional level, using peer pressure as their power and fear as their weapon. And the Christian masses are still standing by and silently allowing it all to happen, reasoning that those who have been placed in a position of God-given authority all agree with each other, so they must be right. Believers need to see the past as something we did and still do, because when we believed, we willingly entered into a system instead of entering into the Reign (Kingdom) of God.
The abundant life is right here, right now. The arrogant whore who parades around adoring herself, calling herself the bride of Christ, who looks in the mirror and only sees her jewelry and clothes and hair and never once considers what is going on inside – she is getting older. Her beauty is fading fast, people are noticing, and she is desperate. In the coming decades, she will have plastic surgery, undergoing radical procedures to keep up the appearance of beauty, but time will get the best of her. She never had the abundant life in the past and that is obvious to everyone, including herself. She convinces herself she has the abundant life now, but the lyrics to her songs say otherwise. Everyone will know that she will not have abundant life in the future, as she declines. She is desperate and hopeless.
The abundant life is right here, right now. If moving away from Christianity is moving more toward Christ, then do it! What is Christianity, really? It is a word that has been hijacked, and the whore is the one who hijacked it. She did it so deceptively that she even deceived herself. She sees that the word is not working any more, people are seeing a difference between her beauty and the real beauty, so she tries another – follower of Christ. And then she tries another, with a trendy flair – Jesus Freaks. But the world is beginning to understand that her labels are only labels and nothing more. There is nothing real, alive, stimulating, or abundant about her. The abundant life is something she seeks to attain, not something she possesses, and certainly not something she can offer to anyone else.
The abundant life is in the room with you. It has been with you everywhere you go, all along, because it is inside you. He is speaking life to anyone with the ears to hear it. So, what do you hear? Lies? Then you will have your own “truth” instead of the abundant life. What do you hear? Danger? Then you will have your “safety” instead of the abundant life.
The abundant life is so fulfilling that what I used to see as fulfilling my need is like junk to me, now. There is nothing in the system that I need. There is nothing, absolutely nothing that the system can give me that I don’t already have. It is both empty and emptying of anyone who is part of it. It offers nothing but illegitimate hierarchy, emotional violence, half-truths, and spiritual poverty in a package so beautiful that one could spend a lifetime so caught up in admiring it that he or she never opens it to discover the disappointment and death inside. I can never return to it as a member of it, only as a sad spectator or a trouble maker, because I can’t function within it with a clear conscience before God. There are no actions I could perform or words I could speak as a member of it that would not be scrutinized by the power hungry and fearful spiritual police. I am a cancer in it, because I demand that we stop manipulating, deceiving, oppressing. And a body that functions on manipulation, deception, and oppression is destroyed by the abundant life in me.